i love lent

i love lent
i kid you not, i love lent.

and i don’t mean this in a flippant love like how i love my nook color, or i love my new boots, or i love any silly material item.

i love lent with all my soul.

i love this time of intense reflection, of attempting to improve your faith and your daily life, of being fully aware of how messed up life can be and yet always looking to God who is full of grace and mercy and love.

i love how this is the one time each church year when we openly acknowledge our sinfulness, our propensity to fail, our broken relationship with God.

and we do all this knowing full well that we are human and need God.
we know that we are going to die [eventually] and only God can give us new life.
we fall on our knees and confess all that we are, trusting that God loves us even when we are unable to love. especially when we are unable to love.

this time of reflecting about suffering, sin and death always brings me great joy.
yes, i know that this can sound a bit like schadenfreude (german word to describe how people feel joy at another’s sorrow).
but it’s so much more.

it’s the freedom that comes when we are open and honest about who we are and about our need for God.

i love lent because for a few weeks a year i know that i am not alone in thinking deep thoughts and remaining as honest as possible.

our entire community rallies together in this church season that is set apart from the rest of the year. lent is unlike any other time of our year, and i have always appreciated its uniqueness.

we are now at the beginning of the season of lent.
last night i marked foreheads with ashen crosses, reminding us of our human frailty and limitations.
it was humbling, but also uplifting.
because even though we may fall, God lifts us up.
even though the ashen cross represents human suffering and death, God brings life to us.

during lent i fall to my knees and i break open my heart to let God in.

oh how i love lent.

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Adult Discussion Group at Trinity Learn about Women in the Bible

Today the adult discussion group from Trinity finished up their discussion on some women of the Bible.  We had a chance to explore Sophia (Wisdom) & Eve, Sarah & Hagar, Jael & Judith, the woman at the well & the Syrophonecian woman, Elizabeth & the widow of Nain, and, finally, the women in Romans 16.

 These women had stories to tell.  We knew them from the scripture passages that introduced us to them; but, we also learned that as women of flesh and blood their stories held more than just what was in print.  And, as for Sophia, her story begins before time began. 

Some things that struck us were (just some things – there were so many I can’t list them all):

            Eve had to mourn the loss of a son to murder and another son to exile (because he was the murderer)

            Hagar is the only person in the Bible to give God a name.  (El-roi)

            Both Jael & Judith were women of strong character who delivered their people from the enemy.

            Phoebe was a deacon and Junia was an apostle.

            Sophia (Wisdom) was with God in the beginning.

Through these stories we learned that we have stories to tell as well.  That all who gather to learn about the people of the Bible and read their stories have the stories of his/her own in his/her journey with God.  Some of the women’s stories helped us to speak; some caused us to pause and look at our own lives; some will keep us wondering.

Maybe during this Lent season you may find yourself wanting to explore the women of the Bible and through them take your own journey of discovery.  Forty days of learning about them; forty days of learning more about yourself: who you are, and whose you are.

 Blessed Lent, Pastor Jessica

End of Genesis

This morning at bible study in McVille, we completed reading through all 50 chapters of the book of Genesis.

We started this journey back in early October and officially finished on Feb 15. That is 4 months of reading the stories and hearing how God was always at work with imperfect people prone to making stupid mistakes, and yet in the midst of their brokenness God was always at work and accomplishing what God intended to happen.

Next week, on Ash Wednesday, we are going to start reading the gospel of Mark. For the church year, Mark is the gospel we focus on and read from. So we are going to sit down, read through it without jumping from story to story like in the lectionary, and take time to discuss what we are hearing and learning.

Please join us either in person or if you can’t be there, read the gospel on your own knowing that you are not alone.

And yes, I did give out certificates (although the pink did not print since I didn’t use a color printer).
Cause who doesn’t love having something simple to help celebrate the accomplishment?

say what?

Okay, so I have to admit that your pastors are slackers when it comes to blogging. Well, I admit that I am…

But here are some things to update you on since we last chatted [aka last time I blogged]:

1. Christmas – we survived the chaos and the ridiculously nice weather. Sad face for a brown Christmas, happy face for being able to wear dresses with cute shoes instead of needing to layer and wear snow gear!
Numerous services meant for busy schedules but also amazing to be able to sing the classic hymns more than once.
Who knew that the best part of being a pastor at Christmas time would be that I got to sing silent night more than once?
This year in McVille I added on a second, late-night service at the request of my family (I hosted this year and was grateful for safe traveling conditions since my family traveled north from South Dakota). We sang a capella and it was a different way of doing Christmas Eve, but I kinda liked the change from the organ.
[No offense to all you organ players out there, but I love me some a capella singing…]

2. 2011 ended, 2012 began – last year was a time of great change and upheaval and accomplishments, at least in my life. And in the world of TCM. I graduated, was ordained and was installed as the new pastor within about 5 weeks.
Whew…and people wonder why I have no idea what goals to have for 2012? How can I top 2011?
I have a few ideas, but I’m not sure if they’re realistic or not…

3. Annual meetings are over and done with. I have to admit that meetings are my least favorite part of being a pastor, but I was excited to attend the annual meetings that I did. I like hearing about what went on last year and to get ideas of what we can look forward to trying this year.
Weird, I know.
But I really am looking forward to getting people involved in new ways (service projects, shared meals, etc).

4. I took a vacation. It was nice to be in old, familiar settings. But it was more of a work vacation since I did a wedding for a college friend
[no one warned me how awkward/awesome it would be to go back as a pastor to the chapel I worked at in college…]
and attended a conference at luther seminary.
I did manage some fun in the form of shopping: new boots, new purse, new dress, new chairs, stocked up on foods/drinks only found at specialty stores in the cities

5. Bible studies.
– Binford: Pastor Jessica has been leading a study about various women in the Bible at Binford on Tues afternoons. And Becky Goetz has a short series on Sunday mornings.
– McVille: WE ARE ALMOST DONE READING THROUGH THE ENTIRE BOOK OF GENESIS!!!!!!
[yeah, i used caps lock to show how exciting this is…]
Next round (starting on Ash Wednesday) will be the gospel of Mark since that is the gospel our lectionary keeps reading from this year.

6. Lent…
– is just around the corner (Ash Wed is Feb 22)
– is going to be a time to think about the covenants on Sunday mornings and the characters [other than Jesus] in gospel stories on Wednesday evenings

7. Pastoral presence in your communities
Your pastors want to be visible (and physical) presences, so we will be setting up office hours in each community! Yay!
(although I do understand that some of you may not be as excited as others to know you must be on your best behavior…wink, wink)
Pastor Jessica will rotate through Hannaford, McHenry, Grace City and Cooperstown. More on the exact schedule to come…
And I’ll start spending my Friday afternoons at Trinity in Binford (next week, not two days from now). I will be found in the comfy chair in the nursery next to the office…possibly napping 😉
Please know that you can stop by any of the locations and visit with either of us.